How to handle my mom's dementia and Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome? - AgingCare.com

How to handle my mom's dementia and Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome?

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Hello everyone, I could really use some advice about my mother who's now 63. It's a long story, but I'll try to keep it as simple as possible! About a year ago, my then-62-year-old mother had a nervous breakdown after getting fired from her job (her ability to handle numbers was failing). She has always been a functioning alcoholic, but her drinking increased exponentially; at the same time, she stopped eating and cleaning up after herself. Long story short, she ended up with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and suffered permanent brain damage/dementia. She was hospitalized briefly, but was released and now she's back at home. Here's some background of our situation: my mother has been single since the mid-80s, has psychological issues (debilitating anxiety, depression and I suspect borderline personality disorder, but she has always refused to seek help). She was quite emotionally and verbally (sometimes physically) abusive to me throughout my childhood and adolescence, and we have always had a very fraught, troubled relationship that has resulted in my keeping my distance from her. I am an only child, and currently live on the other side of the country with no intention of moving back (I'm 35 and married with no kids). She has pushed all of her friends and family away, and has basically no one left. So flash forward to the present, she can barely drive, cannot handle her own finances (I do them now) and sits alone in her house all day every day, with no concept of time, no hobby (she refuses), and no human interaction except my once-a-week phone call. I am at a total loss for what to do. Financially the situation is a mess because she is living off of early retirement/social security and withdrawals from her IRA, which is dwindling down rapidly. I have proposed bringing her out to my part of the country (as much as the thought absolutely tortures me) and setting her up in an apartment so I could help her with groceries, doctors appointments, etc, but she won't hear of it. She refuses to go to a psychiatrist or pursue any treatment to improve her dementia. She's also extremely antisocial, so she rejects the idea of hiring a helper/caregiver to be in her house (she hates everyone, and I would NEVER hear the end of it). Being an only child and with no father or other family, this is all falling squarely on me—and I would have preferred not to even have a relationship with her! I don't know what specifically I'm asking for help with, but how have you all handled similar situations? How much can I "force" her to change her situation—i.e., sell her house/downsize/relocate, get help, etc. Or, how have you convinced your parent to accept help? Is there an organization/counselor that I can talk to? Any thoughts would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks so much.

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Man, that's a lot to deal with. It sounds like a very exhausting and disruptive responsibility dealing with her in her condition. I certainly wouldn't encourage her to come near you. What could that accomplish except a lot of torment for you since she doesn't accept your help?

Do you want to continue to be in charge of paying her bills? What happens when she runs out of money?

I looked up the condition you describe above and it's quite serious. It sounds like she may not be competent to live alone. Do you really want to be in charge of her care? I would consider all the repercussions of doing that and if not, I might contact an attorney in her jurisdiction and see what options that are available. Contacting social services might be an option. Upon proof of necessity, the Court may appoint someone to be the Guardian and handle her affairs, make decisions for her, etc. It would then be out of your hands.

I think the Al-Anon suggestion is great. Try to find some peace. Your mom may not be able to find that at this point.
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You could ask social services in her county to take protective custody, so they can get her admitted for treatment of the syndrome. That is probably the safest option for her. She needs thiamine injections to help her brain function better, along with other medications. Don't move her near you until she is better.
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No is a complete sentence (especially when dealing with an alcoholic). You may have forgotten due to your abusive childhood...but you can say "no" to all of her requests. You have no obligation to get yourself tangled into her life again after successfully ridding yourself of her abuse.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is long term and incurable (if the person continues drinking). Is she still drinking? Is she taking her treatment for the conditions and following a protocol? I'll guess she's still drinking and she isn't taking proper treatment (medical protocol and psychiactric care).

I'm going to say this a bit strongly...YOU CANNOT MAKE SOMEONE ELSE DO SOMETHING THEY DON'T WANT TO DO. You cannot make her stop drinking. You cannot make her move near you (though I can't imagine why you'd want to, it would be far worse). You cannot make her get help, you cannot make her take treatment, you cannot make her socialize, you cannot make her do anything. This is not your fault.

If she moves closer, you will be caught in a guilt tornado...trying to get her to do what she needs to do, and her fighting you the ENTIRE way.

With this syndrome, if its not managed, it won't be long before she cannot live alone. At this time it's best to bring in Adult Protective Services and allow her to be a ward of the state for placement into a facility...I say this because you won't be able to convince her to go on her own...it just won't happen.

I highly recommend you attend Al-Anon and learn that you can't control anything but your own reaction and involvement. There will come a time where she won't have a choice, and if she keeps going as it is, that will be sooner rather than later.

I am so sorry you are going through this and that you had such a bad childhood. Please don't allow yourself to be hurt any further...you deserve peace.

Angel
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